So this is a review of yet another album I have postponed writing about for some months. With no hope of finding any metaphor to drag out in attempt to portray the disc accurately, I shall just get right to it. This CD is responsible for a many unwanted guests coming to and staying in my room for prolonged and painful periods of time. People I hold a general dislike for and people I like a great amount, found this album extremely appealing. Having said that, it may hint at a generic element in the CD, which could be responsible for this (unfortunate for me) congregation of people in my room. Yet, there is nothing generic or average about it. This album has a feel all of its own; from the oh-so-cool and sweet vocals to the ever so soothing play of the instruments.
Five people share the vocals, each performing on different songs. This may suggest a sense of discontinuation but the flow is incredible and applauded (from my side, at least). Each of the vocalists commits to a soulful, calm, and incredible sound, which penetrates the soul. A bit dramatic perhaps (my description), with the integration of the soul in my praise, but it is quite amazing. These singers would tear apart any American Idol contestant; how is that for putting it in perspective? Do not let rumors of hints of 70’s soft rock and electronica convince you to avoid this album. That would only be a disservice to yourself and the rest of the world if such rumors were heeded.
I will be honest and say that I am not a fan of techno music or electronica. At least that is what I have thought for quite awhile now. If When It Falls is considered electronica and “ambient techno,” then I have been quite disillusioned. I shall recast my vote in favor of Zero 7 and all they represent, be it electronica and techno. These labels, which have been stuck on by others not myself, are very deceptive. I cannot emphasize enough how calm, pleasant, and not repetitive (as I consider techno to be…headache inducing redundant) this piece of work is.
I do not use the term beautiful often, if ever, to describe music. This could be because the music I usually like is fast and can hardly be referred to with such elegant terms (not that beautiful is elegant, just more so than awesome). This is just one of those CDs, in which ever song has me feeling insanely relaxed and wanting to just lay back and be blanketed by the music. So I sit here snuggly wrapped in soulful and slightly funky melodies, proclaiming that this latest effort from Zero 7 is amazing, intriguing, innocent, warm, sophisticated, and beautiful.
Crossed Keys – Saviors
Saviors shows the work of well-seasoned musicians finding new energy in old sounds
Philadelphia’s Crossed Keys are an interesting intersection between melodic hardcore and punk, taking an earnest approach to the sound that made its way from the underground in the late 90s and early 2000s. This relatively new outfit is the result of Kid Dynamite and Samiam in a blender- in the best way possible. The Kid Dynamite influence may be a given since Crossed Eyes features KD’s drummer Dave Wagenschutz, but the band’s pedigree also includes members of bands like Zolof the Rock & Roll Destroyer and The Curse, all backing the melancholic vocal work of frontman Joshua Alvarez (Halo of Snakes). So while Crossed Keys are somewhat new, its members have been cutting their teeth within their respective circles for years, and their new EP Saviors shows the work of well-seasoned musicians finding new energy in old sounds.
Saviors is backboned by the furious urgency and energy that Kid Dynamite showed through their history, but while Jason Shevchuk’s vocals were beautifully abrasive, Alvarez takes a more restrained, wistful approach to singing. Songs like the opening “Times of Grace” are musically up-tempo percussions and razor-sharp guitars, but are buoyed by Alvarez’s more melodic vocals. His vocals rest at a good place between Samiam’s Jason Beebout and that NYHC tone exhibited by bands like Token Entry and Grey Area. In songs like “R.J.A” and the closing title track, Crossed Keys find more success with their brand of blistering speed meets harmony- slowing down only for the kind of melancholic punk that made Samiam a noted name. While much of Saviors is built on pace, it wasn’t always this way for the band. In fact, their 2017 EP, I’m Just Happy That You’re Here, leans closer to Samiam than it does to Kid Dynamite (the song “Jeff Pelly vs. The Empire” is particularly fantastic), so there’s been an uptick of urgency with Saviors.
For fans of any of the aforementioned bands here, there is plenty to like with Crossed Keys and plenty to like in Saviors. It’s succinct, to the point, but filled with ample reflection and exploration that gives the EP depth and resonance. Any band that has found influence from Kid Dynamite is most certainly OK by us (this site is named after a KD song after all), but Crossed Keys does more than just tip their cap. This one’s a really good one, and worth your time.
Every last time: Revisiting Gameface’s “How Far Is Goodbye?”
A glorious sound of a time gone by
Southern California’s Gameface were always a band that seemed perfect just below the cusp. Their brand of pop-tinged punk was somewhere in between the melancholy driven emo of the early 1990s to what would become of radio-friendly punk bands evolving from the Jimmy Eat Worlds of the… world.
I loved this band. It was songs like “My Star” and “When You’ve Had Enough” that captured my attention. They didn’t fit in with the punk explosion of the mid-90s and had more melodic chops than those that remained in the underground with bands like Quicksand and Texas is the Reason (the latter being the most musically similar).
To this day, I count their track “How Far Is Goodbye?” as one I can listen to on any given day and still feel the same way about it as I did years ago. It’s a glorious sound of a time gone by, and Jeff Caudill, who has been the backbone of their songwriting since the beginning, has still got the chops his ilk can only dream of. There’s a tinge of melancholy that conjures up a certain sadness, a scene in a movie where the protagonist is making their exit into the distance as the scene closes. Something about the song, the sentiment, and the lyrics that always reminds of driving away while looking at the rear view mirror.
Five years ago Gameface released a new album, Now Is What Matters, an album that perfectly encapsulated their ability to write with emotion, melody, and magnetism that only a select few seem to possess. I interviewed frontman Jeff Caudill before the album came out to chat about the band, an interview I think still holds up. Caudill has been busy since then with a lot of solo material, while the band themselves have been releasing music sporadically (mostly singles) since 2014.
While their catalog is deep, there’s one song I keep coming back to, and that’s “How Far Is Goodbye?”. Originally released on the split 10″ vinyl with Errortype: 11 in 2000, the song received an update in 2018, which you can hear below.
Gameface photo from Gameface facebook page.